Officials at Prince George's County's new jail, embarrassed by two escapes in two weeks in late May and early June, have moved to tighten security at the $43 million facility in Upper Marlboro.
Today, 15 new guards are to report to work, boosting the total number to 205 and allowing jail officials to staff an outside patrol. Since early June, the Prince George's Sheriff's Department has been providing officers to patrol the area outside the jail from 3 to 11 p.m.
The lack of such a patrol contributed to the May 26 escape of two inmates who climbed two fences and disappeared into a wooded area adjacent to the jail, officials said. The officer assigned to patrol the grounds that night had been called to a hospital and was not replaced.
In the second escape, June 6, an inmate who had incorrectly been assigned to a work detail walked away when the driver of a truckload of prisoners took a coffee break.
All three escapees were captured.
The 15 new guards will join 14 brought on to the staff June 22, two months after county Department of Corrections head Samuel F. Saxton submitted, then withdrew, his resignation after criticism of understaffing and a policy of mandatory overtime for guards at the jail, which opened in February.
Department spokeswoman Christy Merenda said the new officers apparently "will mean an immediate reduction in overtime and will allow us to do some shift realignment based on preference of the existing staff."
Merenda said jail officials are working to develop a new guard dog unit and plan to install a supposedly unclimbable mesh over fences and sensor alarm devices near all buildings.